When a crisis occurs we call Friends together for worship, prayer, and spiritual encouragement. Gathering people into fellowships is a vital part of FUM’s mission. Yet, with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, we must be more cautious how we gather the community of faith. Yearly Meetings are postponing some business meetings and gatherings. Many local Churches and Monthly Meetings are suspending meetings for worship. FUM’s African Ministries Office has cancelled a gathering of superintendents, and the upcoming Mission’s Committee Retreat is now being held on Skype. Ramallah Friends School, Belize Friends School, and many of our other Friends related schools are closed temporarily, or for the remainder of the school year.
The COVID-19 pandemic is an expanding threat, causing tremendous grief, uncertainty, and collective anxiety. Our unease is increased by travel restrictions, changing social protocols, and plummeting financial markets—not to mention the depletion of the global supply of toilet paper. Friends, during this period of uncertainty we must resist the temptation to panic or be guided be fear. While fear is a natural response, we must lean in to our faith. These days I am reflecting on Psalm 46 to find my spiritual grounding. The Psalm speaks of the earth shaking, nations in chaos, oceans roaring, and the mountains crumbling into the sea. Yet the Psalm begins with these words of assurance, “God is our refuge and strength, a ready help in time of trouble.” The closing stanza contains this invitation, “Be still and know that I am God.”
While our society seems to be pulling out of shape and folks around us are afraid, the gift and grace Quakers offer the world in the midst of chaos is the inner stillness and silent assurance that God is with us. God is the source of peace and strength. Friend Edward Burrough writes,
All that dwell in the light, their habitation is in God, and they know a hiding place in the day of storm; and those who dwell in the light, are built upon the rock, and cannot be moved, for who are moved or shaken, goes from the light, and so goes from their strength, and from the power of God, and loses the peace and the enjoyment of the presence of God.
I urge Friends everywhere to take courage, for God is our refuge and strength. May we also seek creative ways to gather in fellowship, serve others, and grant the gift of stillness to the world. God is with us!
In the Peace of Christ Jesus,